UPDATE: Both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot have been released from prison. Read the latest updates here.

Previously: It’s been several days since President Putin suggested that he will pardon the feminist, artist, activist punk band members Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova. Right now, Tolokonnikova is in a prison hospital. Alyokhina’s release process may begin tomorrow, but we’ve been told “tomorrow” every day since the new amnesty laws were signed.

UPDATED 8:30PM: Hours ago, Alyokhina’s friend Polyakova told the Russian press that she is trying to legally refuse Putin’s amnesty, fearing for the fate of her fellow prisoners. We were able to contact a rep from Free Pussy Riot, verifying to ANIMAL that this is Alyokhina’s best friend speaking on her behalf and she is “really the only link” to Alyokhina for media. She has been tweeting in Russian outside the Alyokhina’s prison camp “with Masha’s Mom, Natalie Alyokhina, making sure the paperwork is going to the right places, etc, just waiting.”

Before her press statement earlier, Polyakova wrote (translated):

Masha is still trying to find a way to not leave [the prison] on amnesty. When I met her, I told her that this is not possible. There is one way, however — I found this out after our meeting — she has to aggressively break the labor schedule. I’m not yet sure what that means, or whether you can accomplish this in a short time. Should I tell her this? More than anything in the world, I want her to leave prison now. At the same time, if you love someone, than you do what they want, not what you think is better for them. And Masha wants to stay.

Speaking on behalf of Alyokhina, friend Tasia Polyakova told TV RAIN (Дождь) earlier today that prisoners who spoke to Alyokhina or befriended her in any way were threatened and intimidated by the prison authorities. Alyokhina is concerned for their safety. She fears their treatment will worsen after her release, which is why she inquired about any legal ways she can avoid being released.

Polyakova also told TV Rain that Alyokhina decided not to deliberately break the work-schedule of the labor camp, as that would only land her in solitary confinement and she would be isolated from her friends, not able to observe their fates. If unable to stay in the colony, Alyokhina vows to dedicate herself to freeing her fellow prisoners and working with human rights groups.

ANIMAL also spoke with Tolokonnikova’s husband Petr Verzilov. Verzilov tells ANIMAL:

When I met Masha on Monday last week she did show that she is worried that she’ll leave prison without finishing her prison labour analyses and helping the women in prison, but she understands that amnesty by Russian law is not a choice of the convicted, but an order of the government. She has a lot of plans how to help the women in prison from outside as well – and both she and Nadia will talk about them once they are free… Taya Polyakova is Masha’s old-time friend and all’s ok with her. If you don’t read the news agencies’ headlines but try to read Taya’s comments then all is ok with them.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova have been jailed for “hooliganism” (40 seconds of dancing to an anti-Putin protest song in a church) and sentenced to serve two years in some of Russia’s most inhumane labor camps. Prior to the suggested pardon, they were due to be released in March of 2014. Putin has repeatedly emphasized that his pardon does not mean that the activists weren’t “guilty” and didn’t “deserve” their punishment.

Technically, the new amnesty laws cover minors, pregnant women and women with young children, pensioners, some of the handicapped, those who served in combat and Chernobyl recovery workers sentenced to less than five years. Alyokhina is allegedly demanding that fellow prisoners who fall under these qualifications are also released.

Meanwhile, Putin’s former political opponent and oligarch has finally been released, after 10 years. He is starting a new, deliberately a-political life in Germany. When will Pussy Riot’s release procedures begin? Whenever Putin wants them to, naturally.

(Image: KP.ru)